Saturday, November 14, 2020

Quebec and systemic racism

I have noticed a specific example of the association fallacy in the discussion of Quebec's  Bill n°21 : An Act respecting the laicity of the State (Official Status legislation). This bill discusses which subset of persons providing provincial services must offer that service with their face uncovered, and a further smaller subset that must do so without wearing religious symbols. I invite people to read the bill, as much of what is being said about the bill in the media and by opponents is misleading.

The logical fallacy is this: since Premier Francois Legault has been unable to recognize systemic racism in Quebec, then a bill respecting the laicity of Quebec must be racist.

Mr. Legault's failure is a common one.  It is discussed by Robin DiAngelo in White Fragility.  Whites and white societies (like colonial Canada) have tunnel vision because of their adherence to individuality and objectivity, two pillars of white privilege. Until they remove those ideological blinders they are unable to understand how racism works. Racism isn't about individuals at all, but about systems. While an individual can be racist, a focus on the privileged concept of "a few bad apples" makes it impossible to recognize racism.

This problem goes further, in that this tunnel vision of individuality also makes it impossible for people to see the impact of religion on politics. In Quebec the Catholic Church ran health care and education until the Quebec government finally took that over during the quiet revolution (1960's+). As with France, separating the Catholic Church from Quebec's governance and the provision of services is a long and ongoing struggle for freedom.

The Catholic Church, and the papal bull's from the Pope that formed the Doctrine of Discovery, are at the heart of colonialism in Canada, and colonialism is where the racism came from. Catholics in western societies, who ideologically think of themselves as individuals, feel no personal responsibility for the policies of the Catholic Church. They feel no responsibility for the fact the Vatican has still not rescinded the papal bulls at the heart of North American colonialism, or even apologized for its active part in residential schools. (Update: See resources of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Biships)   If Catholic citizens understood systemic racism and wanted to fight against it, they would do everything in their power as members of Catholicism to force the Vatican to do better. Inaction is consent.

Remember: The Vatican isn't simply a set of buildings, but is considered by the United Nations to be an independent state.  The bias towards the Catholic Church of the specific League of Nations that became the United Nations, and the political threat that represents to other nations (including First Civilizations within Turtle Island), is ongoing.

Some of the recent activism against racism in Quebec is in support of the family of Joyce Echaquan, the 37-year-old mother of seven from the Atikamekw First Nation. She died restrained in a Joliette hospital bed, soon after livestreaming her cries for help and scornful racist comments by staffers whose job it was to care for her.

People are finally recognizing systemic racism in Quebec (and the rest of Canada), but remain unable to see the influence of the Catholic Church or the Vatican in helping build these racist systems.

In my mind it displays a misunderstanding of systemic racism for some of the same people who are protesting against the treatment of Joyce Echaquan to also be protesting against Bill 21.  Fixing the systems behind what caused Joyce Echaquan's death requires protecting the laicity of the state.

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